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Chapter Twenty-eight

IN January noo the young Emperor Tsehtsung died at the age of
twenty-four, leaving behind him a generation of dead, broken, and
tired scholars. Whereas his father, Shentsung, had fourteen sons, he
had only one child by "Glamor Liu", and it had died in infancy. His
brother Huitsung succeeded to the throne. Huitsung in turn produced
thirty-one sons, a few good paintings, and a national chaos. What his
brother had started, Huitsung completed. He used the same men and
followed the same policies. Wang Anshih's state capitalism was now
associated with the regime of Shentsung and honoured with the name
of "the Ancestor's Way". Both in methods of enriching the imperial"
treasury and in the war policy towards the northern tribes, Huitsung
followed in the footsteps of Wang Anshih. Perhaps it was hard for an
emperor to resist a policy which centred the wealth of the country in
the government and in the imperial household. But every emperor
who did this had to pay the price for it. In Huitsung's case the price
was the loss of his throne, the capture of the capital, and his death in
captivity by northern tribes. Perhaps Huitsung  did paint beautiful
birds, including romantic mandarin ducks, but any ruler who could
stand heart-rending oppression of the people to build a pleasure garden
for himself deserved to lose his throne.

The national fibre was sapped and weakened by the time Huitsung
ascended the throne. Men of character and ability and moral rectitude
are rare products of a civilised society and thus take a long time to
grow up and mature. The generation of Szema Kuang, Ouyang Shiu,
Fan Chunjen, and Lu Kungchu was now gone. This generation of
men had variously been punished, exiled, died of illness or old age,
or had been murdered. The atmosphere of independent criticism and
fearless thinking and writing was stifled, and all political life was
tainted. Su Tungpo and his disciples had suffered too much for their
opinions to wish to go into politics again, particularly when the political
wind was against them. It is difficult to expect that a new generation
of upright, learned, and fearless scholars could just turn up at court,
by a fiat of the Emperor. It is also too much to expect that a large
clique of men who had tasted power for eight years should not attempt
to remain in power.

There was, however, a temporary spell of good luck for Su Tungpo.
For the first six months of noo the new empress dowager, wife of
Shentsung, ruled as regent. In April of that year all the Yuanyu
officials were pardoned, and although she returned the throne to her